A Northern Kenya Adventure: Part 1- Nairobi to Marsabit
I recently got the chance to visit Marsabit County and it was everything I imagined and more. This is the first post of the series, covering the journey from Nairobi to Marsabit town.
Photography by Elvis and yours truly
We started off our journey very early, at 4:30am, in an attempt to beat traffic and to get to Marsabit in good time. The beautiful rising sun and a visible Mt Kenya warmed us up as we watched the towns we passed by slowly come alive. The journey from Nairobi to Marsabit is about 560km which takes around eight hours if driving. If you prefer to fly, there is an airstrip in Marsabit.
We had a quick stop at Karatina for a bathroom break and then later at the equator sign in Nanyuki for a demonstration of the Coriolis Effect in action, and of course take some photos.
Later on, we stopped at Cedar Mall Nanyuki for breakfast and last-minute snack shopping, the mall is quite a popular stop for people in transit to northern Kenya. My friend and fellow blogger Kuhi Wanjohi (who you may remember from Koija), passed by to say hi, check out her work here. The drive past Timau and Kisima was absolutely gorgeous, driving past the golden wheat farms with Mt Kenya’s peaks in the distance was such a treat.
The drive was smooth and by this time, we were busy chatting away.
At around 11:30am, we stopped at a nyama choma joint in Archer’s Post for an early lunch and a bathroom break. The reason being we still had a long way to go. It’s best to have some snacks and some entertainment if you like reading, listening to music/audiobooks/podcasts with you because the journey is long. You should be mentally prepared for that. If you can nap easily in a moving vehicle even better.
Driving past Archer’s and you notice a change in scenery and temperature. The land gets drier, the vegetation gets sparse and it gets hot.
Then the road leads you towards the beautiful Mt Ololokwe and you cannot help but stop for photos. The vast land, the beautiful well graded road and Ololokwe as the back drop is the perfect combination for a bomb photo.
The A2 road is one of the most scenic roads in the country and it’s such a joy to drive on. There are very few cars and the road itself is smooth and well-marked. I highly recommend using it even if you are driving up to Ololokwe and back to Nanyuki or Nairobi, just for the views. You can also camp at the base and summit of the mountain at Sabache Eco Camp or hike up to the summit.
Back to the car and at this point, it’s scorching hot, I can only empathise with people walking outside. So
naturally, people are quiet and a good number are napping. The journey continues the land is quite bare, you will see some pastoralists and their herds of camels and goats along the road. This is the only traffic you are bound to encounter.
About 100km later, we get to Marsabit town, which is suprisingly different from what I imagined. The town is modern and buzzing with activity, much different from what many may picture to be a small centre in a desert. We arrived at around 3:30 pm and drove straight to the Marsabit National Park (about ten minutes from the city centre), using Ahmed Gate.
Marsabit National Park & Reserve
Known as the home of elephants with some of the biggest tusks, craters and thriving bird life.
Marsabit National Park Entry Fees
The park falls under the Scenic/ Special Interest section.
The gate is named after the famous tusker called Ahmed aka the “King of Marsabit” who lived in the national park. He was protected day and night by two hunters, as decreed by the late President Jomo Kenyatta to protect him against poachers. His body was preserved and it now resides in Nairobi National Museum. The Park gate leads to a forest and the cool and lush environment is such a welcome contrast to the otherwise hot and dry town.
Our first stop was at Marsabit Lodge (which is no longer operational), to see one of the three craters in the Park, Gof Sokorte Diqo. “Gof” is the Borana word for crater. The crater lake is very beautiful and animals frequent the area to graze and hydrate. Expect to see bull elephants and buffaloes especially at dusk.
Back to the car and on to the next stop, to see the new dam under construction. To get to the dam, you get to go on a small nature walk and enjoy the crisp fresh air.
In frame is Bakuri Dam, which provides water for the residents of Marsabit town and a man-made waterfall.
Our next stop was at Lake Paradise in Gof Sokorte Gudho. You see the lake from the view point which also doubles up as a picnic site. We did not go down to the lake, because we were pressed for time, I understand that it is about 40 minutes away from the view point. It looks like a bigger Gof Sokorte Diqo if you ask me and the lake increases in size during the rainy season. We saw some buffaloes and hippos grazing by the lake and some of us could have sworn that we saw an elephant, but it turns out that that was just a rock.
Game viewing in the park is
not a walk in the park (get it? no? okay) not easy because of the thick forests, you’d have a better chance of seeing the animals at the craters. As luck would have it, we saw a lone buffalo as we were making our way back to the gate. He sped past us and ran into the forest. We also saw a herd of grazing buffaloes at Gof Soqorte Diqo.
Accommodation in Marsabit National Park
As I mentioned earlier, Marsabit Lodge is not operational, camping is the only available option at the moment. Read about the Kenyan Camper’s camping experience at the Park here.
Wrapping up the Day
We made it to our accommodation for the night, Nomads Trail Hotel at around 6:45 pm. We checked in, settled, and refreshed ourselves just in time for a buffet dinner. It is a very basic place with simple ensuite rooms but it works and they provide WiFi for guests.
It was quite a long day and a good night’s rest was much needed as we’d come to discover the following day.
Stay tuned for part two of my Marsabit County adventure. If you’re hungry for more, enjoy the sneak peeks and behind the scenes of the journey on my Instagram.
Until next time,